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Selection of BB creams

BB cream stands for blemish balm, blemish base, beblesh balm, and in Western markets, beauty balm. It is a cosmetic item sold mainly in Asian markets, although the majority of larger beauty brands have introduced BB creams to Western markets.

BB cream is promoted as an all-in-one facial cosmetic product to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock. It can be worn alone as a tinted moisturizer, over serum and moisturizer as a regular foundation, and under powder, depending on the desired amount of coverage.


Christine Schrammek, German dermatologist, in the 1960s; developed further in the 1980s by Korean cosmetics companies

Description: All-in-one facial cosmetic product to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock

Main markets: South Korean and Japanese markets from 1985; Western markets from 2012


What became BB cream was originally formulated in the 1960s in Germany by dermatologist Dr. Christine Schrammek to protect her patients' skin after facial peels and surgery. Introduced to South Korea and Japan in 1985 – where healthy-looking, porcelain skin is heavily prized – the cream was hailed as "the secret of Korean actresses," and was heavily endorsed by Korean celebrities.


Christine Schrammek Blemish Balm from 1960s

BB creams come in a variety of different formulations. Because Korean companies focused initially on the Korean and East Asian markets, they are offered in a limited number of hues. Instead of offering multiple shades for different skin colours, most formulae are designed to oxidize to match the user's skin tone. The skin-whitening properties of the cream as sold in the Asian market are an important element in its popularity.

The cream is promoted as a multi-tasker and all-in-one treatment, but Korean women mostly use it as an alternative to foundation, particularly those with Western formulations that tend to be too heavy for their tastes. The coverage is often mineral-based, and is intended to both cover and treat blemishes such as acne, sun spots and age spots. It also has anti-wrinkle, anti-inflammatory and soothing effects. Several contain hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C. The Huffington Post reports that some companies say BB creams have skin-regenerating properties; dermatologist Jason Rivers of the University of British Columbia Department of Dermatology and Skin Science expressed scepticism that a non-retinoid-based product could do this.


BB creams make up 13 percent of the cosmetics market in South Korea. Some Korean brands also offer BB creams for men. Leading Korean brands include BRTC, Dr. Jart, Etude House, Lioele, Missha, Nature Republic, Enprani, Rachel K, Skin79, SHANGPREE, Skin Food, Sulhwasoo, and The Face Shop.

Western cosmetics companies began to launch BB creams in the Western market in 2012, though some of these creams have been criticized for lacking the skin-caring functions that BB creams normally have, and for being no more than tinted moisturizer. Early arrivals included Boscia, Clinique, Dior, Estée Lauder, Garnier, Marcelle, Maybelline, Omorovicza, Natura Bisse, Revlon and Smashbox. Lab Series makes a BB cream for men. Certain BB creams have been tailored for Western markets: Estée Lauder, for example, has not included the whitening properties in their formulation for North America.


BB creams advertised as cruelty-free include Smashbox (owned by Estée Lauder), The Body Shop (owned by L'Oreal) and LifeCell. The definition of "cruelty-free" varies. The Body Shop BB cream is certified by the Leaping Bunny Program, which means, according to the certification process, that no new animal testing has been used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or the suppliers of its ingredients. As of May 2013, Amore Pacific, which has as its subsidiaries Etude House and Laneige, has ended animal testing on all ingredients and cosmetics.

Products certified as cruelty-free may still contain animal products and may not be suitable for vegans. Vegan BB creams include the Superdrug own brand BB cream, BB cream souffles from Haut Cosmetics, 100% Pure Cosmetics, and the Evenly Radiant BB Crème from Dermae.

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